Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tomasky: Kill the Jews!

It seems that this is exactly what Michael Tomasky would have done as a member of Hitler's Germany, or he would have certainly have taken a poll to see how many Germans were in favor of it, and how many against.

You see, Tomasky does not apparently hold moral values as a key reason to act, or not act. He tells us that:
Then there’s Murray Rothbard, a von Mises acolyte whose intense libertarianism led him toward the posture that taxation is theft. Indeed, his contribution to this literature was to discover that since public debt is repaid at the end of the day by taxes, i.e., by stolen money, making such payments stinks of immorality.
He dismisses Rothbard, and other economists (including Nobel Prize winner James Buchanan) who are in favor of government debt default, by telling us that:
...these ideas are from some other planet. If you want to believe that the public debt is immoral and that taxation is theft, go right ahead and believe those things. But acting on them in a world that does not agree with you is a different matter.
So damn morality, order a poll, if the people want the Jews gone, well then the Jews will have to go. If you want to believe Jews should be saved, you can believe those things. But acting on them in a world that does not agree with you is a different matter---so, using Tomasky logic, the Jews must go is the conclusion we must reach.


  1. Tomasky: regardless of people's beliefs, what is taxation, if not theft? In other words, what is the reality of the nature of taxation, regardless of how people choose to perceive it for whatever personal purposes such perception may serve?

  2. Bob-

    I'm going to call you on that. It's below the belt.

    Tomasky wasn't saying Rothbard was wrong because most people don't agree with him. He was saying, assuming something (taxation is theft) that most people people don't buy makes it insuperably difficult to conduct policies based on that position.

    At least, that's how I understood it.

  3. Tomasky's commentary was "special." I loved reading the skewering he was taking in the comments. :)

  4. Mises: Kill The Jews!

    Mises didn't believe in any sort of natural rights. Why doesn't your critique hold for him?

    The answer is that both Tomasky are utilitarians. Both killing Jews and default have negative consequences. These are objective truths that are correct regardless of what the public thinks.

  5. @Lila I think you're wrong. Robert's comment was fair. The whole Tomasky commentary was framed as "weight shouldn't be given to 'minority experts' because they have 'crazy' [pronounced 'freedom-oriented'] ideas." If the majority of so-called "sane" experts were for killing Jews -- as many otherwise-brilliant Germans were in WWII -- Tomasky would be for it.

  6. @Anon 9:56

    Killing Jews is morally wrong because it robs them of their primary property (their lives). Default having negative consequences is just your assertion. It is not an "objective truth" by any stretch of the imagination.

  7. @Anon 10:07

    1. You haven't addressed my other points.
    2. You have not proved the existence of property rights. (Mises didn't believe in property RIGHTS, he believed that governments acting as if there were property rights would benefit society.)
    3. How does making sure a government can't borrow when it needs to have positive consequences?

  8. I consider taxation theft. My money is taken from me involuntarily and I don't even approve of the way they spend what they take from me. The Federal Mafia is an appropriate label.

  9. @Anonymous @ 10.04 PM

    In the first place, the reductio ad hitlerum
    is all too often directed against libertarians.

    Doesn't sound any better pointed the other way.

    Second. I didn't get that Tomasky was just saying that minority opinions don't matter.

    Third. There is a qualitative difference between the position that taxation is theft and the position that murdering a group of people is evil. There is no substantial group of reasonable people that thinks that genocide is a good thing....or even that killing in war time is good. A necessary evil, perhaps, but not a good or a neutral thing.

    There is a substantial group of reasonable people who think that taxation is NOT theft and it morally neutral.

    Theft is thus more a matter of definition, since the nature of property is subject to more interpretation than the nature of life.

    There is no interpretation that can make a dead man live.

  10. Saying, "...these ideas are from some other planet" is another way of saying, minority opinions don't matter, a.k.a. STFU.

    When he says, "...But acting on them in a world that does not agree with you is a different matter" is another way of saying, most people don't agree, morality be damned but this is the way it's going to be because the majority says so!

    When Lila says, "...There is a substantial group of reasonable people who think that taxation is NOT theft and it morally neutral." Psft, that group isn't reasonable, they're rationalizing.

    Lila says, "...the nature of property is subject to more interpretation than the nature of life." That seems like something a monarch, a dictator or a thief would say.

    Possession is nine-tenths of the law, er, it used to be anyway, but now that we have a Caesar things are going a different direction.

    Lila says, "...There is no interpretation that can make a dead man live." Umm, Christianity and Dr. Frankenstein object.

  11. @anon 9:56 & 10:17

    You are correct. Mises was a utilitarian. But so what? Why do you think it is necessary for Prof Wenzel to address this in a critique of Tomasky? Mises shortcomings as a result of his utilitarianism have been addressed quite critically by his very own disciple, Rothbard.

    Hoppe has already proven the existence of property rights. As a matter of fact this truth has been known long before Hoppe. Please note I am on my mobile phone so posting links is a little difficult. But a quick browse of articles at can back up my points.

    There is no such thing as "a government." Governments do not borrow, individuals do. You can replace "government" in (3) with any group or individuals name. For instance I can ask, "how
    does making sure Prof Wenzel can not borrow more than he needs have positive consequences?"
    The answer is clear: because people have voluntarily chosen not to lend their saved capital to Prof Wenzel, their utility has increased and is therefore a positive result.

    It could be objected that in a free market Prof Wenzel could get into as much debt as creditors are willing to allow. This is true but does not apply to those in government because government is an involuntary institution whose funds are acquired through theft (taxes and bonds).

    Of course not raising the debt ceiling would have negative consequences. But these negative effects would be felt by those dependent on government funds which were stolen from the productive, voluntary economy.

    The massive amount of malinvestment due to the distribution of wealth by governments will come sooner or later. The longer politicians kick the can the worse it will be.

  12. Zach Bush,

    Excellent comment. I appreciate your ability to reflect on the proposition that, to properly address any problem, we must always first define our terms.

  13. The public debt is not going to be repaid by taxation, so the whole argument is irrelevant. Tomasky is living in the past. He's arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. A sycophant till the end. Too late.

  14. @Anonymous

    You are incorrect.

    Christianity does not "interpret" that a man who is dead is not dead. It simply says that the body will be resurrected. That is an entirely different thing.

    Many Christians do indeed "interpret" taxation t be other than theft.

    2. That you think someone is rationalizing is irrelevant to the point being made.

    The post appeared to me to be about the difficulty of making policy starting from assumptions widely different from the mass of policy-makers, thinkers, and people.

    That is a fair point.

    This is not an endorsement of Tomasky...or a diss of Wenzel.

    It's possible to disagree with the guy without dragging Hitler, Nazis and the Holocaust into it, you know.

    I mean, why use the same tactics that you (rightly) denounce when others do it?

  15. I'm with you, Bob. I loved reading the comments- the vast majority were calling Tomasky out for his Nazi-like reasoning.

  16. Taylor,

    Thank you!

    I am in the process of starting a free market (Austrian) group at my current employer. I'm using the concept of starfish networking to create a Mises Institute at work. Once I secure funding for guest speakers it would great if you or Robert could come talk.

  17. Excellent comments one and all! Utilitarianism is problematic enough when you try to discern who gets to decide what is "the most good for the most people". It crumbles even more when the foundation for utilitarian arguments is not what IS good but how many people think what is good.

    That being said, I belive the refutation of Tomasky could be made just as cogently without proving Godwin's Law.